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THE COPPER BEECH by Maeve Binchy


by Maeve Binchy

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 1992
ISBN: 0-385-30775-6
Publisher: Delacorte

 Another collection of related tales (as in this popular Irish author's The Lilac Bus, 1991) dealing with a varied clutch of people and their several life crises. The principals here are mainly natives of the village of Shancarrig, and some are former classmates at the school, a little stone building shaded by a copper beech. The time is roughly from the 1950's to 1969, when the school closes. The chronicles begin with the sad story of fragile (and only faintly fey) Maddy Ross, a junior assistant teacher, and her doomed love for a charismatic priest (who cheats the church as he cheats her). Among the other people whose stories are told: Maura Brennan, poor and good beyond imagining, who adores her Down's syndrome son, the legacy of a deserting husband; lonely Eddie Barton, who's carrying on a lie-padded pen-pal romance with a Scottish lass who has her own secret; the long-grieving Dr. Jims, who at last has a reconciliation with his son--the son whose birth took his wife's life; the childless Kellys who experience a miracle-through-death; lawyer Richard Hayes, who learns love the hard way; and a pair of lovers who triumph over knowledge of murder and scandal. At the end, the school building is to close, and who will be the new owners? Outsiders? Maddy Ross's unsavory cult? One of the school alums who carved initials in the beech? A parfait of sentiment and mostly happy endings. There are a few bright and snappy spots--but, in general, it's all heartwarming to the swelter point. (Book-of-the-Month Dual Selection for November)